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Last week a jellied disc
in one of my husband’s lower vertebrae
cinched, slipped—on the x-ray
the bones’ thorned edges gritted against each other,
his whole spine yearning left,
a lily stem arched toward the promise
of light. Now the days shrink
into themselves, the trees bare-limbed
but for squirrels’ nests and the green
bloom of mistletoe, the opalescent berries
suspended like droplets of milk.
All my comforts are questions:
is it better, does this help, and to wonder
at the body as host, his to pain,
mine to our firstborn. Unseen, unfelt
arms and legs push into socket,
joints form, the elbow a door
swinging open. Before you, before your
cloistral assembly of parts, I knew
words waiting to become you:
Face. Hair. Cuticle. Was it this way
for Mary, overshadowed by the Spirit?—
her body not hers, reworded with the promise
of flesh? How can this be? I echo her,
though I have known a man.
Here? I ask him, and soothe cream
into his skin, the two divots in the small
of his back—gates that keep the invisible hurt.
May it be as you have said—
and I picture her trembling hands,
the hour dusk, everything vague and blued,
hour all the shadows become shadow.


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